As the year comes to a close, let’s take a look back at some of the best children’s books of 2020.
Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris (picture book)
One day, Kamala and Maya had an idea. A big idea: they would turn their empty apartment courtyard into a playground! This is the uplifting tale of how the author’s aunt and mother first learned to persevere in the face of disappointment and turned a dream into reality. This is a story of children’s ability to make a difference and of a community coming together to transform their neighborhood. Illustrated by Ana González.
Exquisite by Suzanne Slade (picture book)
This is a beautiful picture book biography about Gwendolyn Brooks, the influential poet and the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize. Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera.
The Box Turtle by Vanessa Roeder (picture book)
Terrance the turtle was born without a shell, so he uses a cardboard box instead. Terrance loves his box. It keeps him dry on soggy days, safe from snooping strangers, and is big enough to cozy up with a friend. But when another turtle points out that Terrance’s shell is, well, weird, he begins to wonder whether there might be a better shell out there…
The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee (picture book)
When the babysitter is unable to come, Daniel is woken out of bed and joins his parents as they head downtown for their jobs as nighttime office cleaners. Mama and Papa turn the deserted office building into a magnificent kingdom filled with paper. Then they weave a fantasy of dragons and kings to further engage their reluctant companion–and even encourage him to one day be the king of a paper kingdom. Illustrated by Pascal Campion.
Hand in Hand by Alyssa Satin Capucilli (picture book)
In this sweet New Books for Newborns book, a parent and their child set out for a fun-filled day of adventure. Whether it’s having fun at the park, or letting your child learn something new, this sweet, rhyming board book is the perfect way to tell your little one that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, all that really matters is doing it together, hand in hand. Illustrated by Sheryl Murray.
The List of Things that Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead (middle grade)
After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other. When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy.
A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry (middle grade)
In one of the best children’s books of 2020, a young orca whale must lead her brother on a tumultuous journey to be reunited with their pod. This gorgeously illustrated animal adventure novel explores family bonds, survival, global warming, and a changing seascape. A Whale of the Wild weaves a heart-stopping tale of survival with impeccable research on a delicate ecosystem and threats to marine life. Illustrated by Lindsay Moore.
Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson (middle grade)
Ryan Hart has a lot on her mind—school, self-image, and family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means changes like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks, because Ryan is all about trying to see the best.
The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate (middle grade)
Bob sets out on a dangerous journey in search of his long-lost sister with the help of his two best friends, Ivan and Ruby. As a hurricane approaches and time is running out, Bob finds courage he never knew he had and learns the true meaning of friendship and family.
Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson (middle grade)
For as long as ZJ can remember, his pro-football star dad has been everyone’s hero. But lately his dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions, all the while wondering what their family’s past amounts to if his father can’t remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?
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